A Little Taste Of Porto
We’ve been in the little marina at Povoa De Varzim for five nights now. I hadn’t really planned to stop here that long but it’s relatively inexpensive, pleasantly positioned and, as we discovered today, well connected for visiting Portugals second city Porto. The weather has also made it easier to stay, up until yesterday the winds were persistently coming from the South and with them we got frequent fog. It seems to appear at anytime during the day, sometimes it disappears again, sometimes it thins and thickens repeatedly for hours, other times it just stays.
The winds have now moved round to the North and freshened and yet this fog still hasn’t gone completely. I’m typing this in the early evening, a couple of hours ago we had bright sunshine and now there’s zero sun and the town skyline is beginning to vanish. It’s going to make leaving a tricky decision but one I’ll have to make soon, there are some longer passages with fewer ports of refuge ahead so we haven’t left our sailing challenges behind just yet.
Today though we turned tourist and used the excellent Metro service to get us into Porto. As I’ve said before I’m not a fan of big cities and Porto is big, too big to see in a day so we had to be selective. We got off the Metro at the central station and slowly walked downhill towards the river Douro. This gave us chance to take in the atmosphere and get a good view of some very impressive architecture along the way.
Once down by the river the scale of the place made a real impact. The valley sides are steep and the city seems to rise up to the sky away from the river. We walked along the North bank of the river Douro and crossed the Ponte Luis I one of the six bridges that cross the Rio Duro. It’s a two level bridge and as we walked alongside the roadway we could hear the trains rumbling across on the second level way above us. Above that a cable car ran from the riverbank near the Port Wine Cellars up to the highest point of the South Bank.
The Pont Luis I and traditional ‘Barco Rebelo’
The Port Wine Cellars were of course our main reason for crossing the river as they are all clustered together on the South side. We chose to visit the Calem Cellar and had a fascinating guided tour during which we learned at lot about the famous Porto Wines not least that they don’t come from Porto and that they’re not wines!
The numbers on these barrels shows how many litres they hold!
One of the huge maturing barrels which can be used for up to 100 years
We finished the tour with the obligatory tasting, we sampled a very nice Branco (White) and a vintage Tawny, both went down a treat but we left with a bottle of Rose as we fancied something a little different to take back.
To clear our heads we took a slow walk back over the river and up through the town to visit the Livraria Lello. It’s a bookshop reputed to be one of the most beautiful in the world and is classified as a World Heritage site. Use the link above to learn more about it if you’re interested, I’ll just say it was indeed beautiful and give you with the pictures below to judge for yourself.
We came away from Porto with a very good impression of the place, bolstered by the way that whilst standing on a corner studying the map and trying to get our directions back to the Metro station some local youngsters came up to us, asked in excellent English if we needed help and then walked with us to the station. It’s perhaps indicative of the state of our own country that Gails first thought was that they planned to lead us down some backstreet and mug us. We may forget some of what we experienced but one thing is certain, now and forever we’ll toast the city of Porto and remember our visit every time we raise a glass of their most famous export.
So sometime over the next few days we’ll be sailing again heading further South down the coast of Portugal. More than any passages we’ve made so far these next ones will be somewhat unpredictable in terms of destination, it’s a case of identifying all the possible options, plotting waypoints and courses accordingly and then, once we’re out there making choices according to weather and progress. As always I’ll update you when I can.